Saturday, October 24, 2015


Oh, Zardon.  So out of it.  Only a God would think it's a good idea to come back to modern-day Manhattan and be reborn into the body of Sigourney Weaver's child... no, wait, that was "Half Moon Street," if memory serves.  Anyway, I went to all the trouble to download this thing, so let's try it out.  300 Baud, from an Atari Bulletin Board... just joking.  But those were the days, weren't they?  Oh, if only I thought to get an Atari modem.  I could of ... have been, like, an extra-nerd!  But I didn't, so I'm not.
But the similarities are many and immediately apparent.  The level seems to be the same; font's a little different, though.  I hand it to Avalon Hill: they didn't just buy the game and repackage it, as-is.  They gave it a few good tweaks, with all due respect to original programmer John Bell.  But giving the players the option of choosing cruising speed and the number of lives was indeed very generous of Bell.  But Avalon Hill's got a slightly better sense of showmanship.  For example, when you get to the Emerald section of the maze, the font changes.  In "Zardon," this includes the shape of your bouns ships in the lower right hand corner of the screen!  They change from ships to sine waves!  What the deuce!!?  There's something to be said for a fresh pair of eyes, because programming the thing's hard enough as it is, and Lord knows the programmer doesn't want to change anything.  You know, the God-like power of programming.  Avalon Hill also tweaked the fonts a bit, probably for the better.  But, you know, dodging the lasers that shoot BOXES at you, it's pretty scary.  The sound's basically the same, and the cave walls look like they're the same.  I can't help but think of my old girlfriend Angelina when I pass through that Magnesium Mine.
Of course, when I refer to fonts, I mean the old Atari fonts.  This is, after all, a Graphics 1 game, and you get 128 characters to tinker with, and only uppercase letters.  They were 8x8 in the old Atari kingdom, but they look a bit rectangular.  Graphics 2 was also 8x8, but taller and closer to an actual square shape.  And in an act of sheer bravery, the maze retained the original Atari colors!  Except for the blue, of course; that was a bit darker.  Blue is the only color that doesn't kill you... I mean, start you over at the beginning of the level.  And the pinky-red stuff is the only color of stuff you can shoot... I mean, zap with your phaser, and barely at that.  Sometimes if you zap one edge of something, it doesn't get destroyed, and you can rack up the points, if only briefly.  Now, where Vorrak underestimated the gaming prowess of those who attempt to conquer its three levels, Zardon rather completely OVER-estimates the gaming patience of its enthusiasts.  I mean, ... FIVE-HUNDRED THOUSAND POINTS??!!!!  Now, I'm no expert... incidentally, the "Expert" settings of games like Shamus 1 and 2 and Zeppelin... those go way too fast for mere mortal players.  I'll bet even the best of Gods might have a hard time, especially if they had to use a mere keyboard to play.  But I think "Space Klutz" is a much better rank than "Ground Gripper."  Really?  Seriously?  GROUND GRIPPER?  First of all... ah, skip it.
Oh, what other brilliant observations did I have?  Oh right, I remember now.  Now, I'm a pretty patient gamer, if I may say so myself... but that's arguably open to conjecture.  But I think I found a flaw in Zardon.  See, I finally made it out the other side of this whole cave thing, fully expecting to graduate to the Power Emerald levels 2 and 3.  So I get to the end and boom!  I merely start over at the beginning!  And I'm like, what the deuce?  But this old dog learned a new trick, because I just recalled the "Break" key on those old Ataris.  See, when you're in Basic and you type the "List" command, I swear you used to be able to hit the "Break" key to get it to stop someplace.  I know, I know, but I have no patience for, like, "List 1-1000"... or do I?  Maybe I should try it sometime.  I also tried drawing in Graphics 8 again!  Ah, the good old days.  Anyway, so I got this SECOND chunk of code, and I tried to look for something about levels 2 and 3... no.  Wonder if I could?  That's probably too much, even for me... nope, didn't work.  I broke it.  I tried getting into the old Atari DOS and list the Zardon files, but no such luck.  So I tried changing line 12 to load "Zar2.asm."  It's the only file name that seems to be for the levels.  Alas, it wasn't meant to be.  So did Avalon Hill concoct levels 2 and 3 as well?  I hate to think so!  But whatever.  A toast to the good old days when one guy could conquer the gaming world single-handedly.  Nowadays it's a bunch of companies, and cartels now, too!  Video game cartels.  Imagine that.  And they're almost as ruthless as drug cartels, but apparently they only go after video game reporters... which is one of the reasons why I generally don't do new stuff.  Speaking of which, I was getting a little misty about "FarmVille."  But it's been 20 minutes and the little yellow ""Loading..." bar isn't done yet.  It's just too unwieldy now.  Imagine if that were chess.  You'd have a second board, 4x4, with a second type of pawn or something... hey!  That actually sounds kinda fun!  And pieces that shoot lasers?  How krunk would THAT be?  ...BASTARDI!  Already done.  Boy, Max Peltier was right!  Everything HAS been done already!

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